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Mike Niles and I took three students and my 13 year old daughter Rose birding around Smithville lake today.  Much of the lake is still ice covered but larger and larger areas are opening up.  Basically all expected duck species were present and in pretty significant numbers.  There were about 6-7 RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS in courtship behavior that was pretty cool.  White Pelicans were scoped out at Camp Branch Marina (rock point) and we had a direct flyover later in the day.  The kids really enjoy pelicans!!   At one point, there were Snow geese coming from the north as far as we could see and we thought they were headed to the main portion of the lake near the dam.  But they evidently flew right over the frozen lake and went on south?
We did not locate the Long-tailed duck but there were a couple of boats out at Camp Branch Marina where it has always been seen.   One of my favorites scenes of the day occurred when the sun came out in the afternoon (behind us) and the white of the ice and that of the many flying gulls just lit up and was contrasted with the open water!!  Very beautiful!!

We did phish up some Red-breasted Nuthatches at the pine grove not to far from Crow's Creek.

All in all, it was a pretty nice day!!  I'm sure the lake will be opening up quickly with this warmer weather but, untill then, the lake provides for some pretty concentrated viewing of waterfowl in various places.

Terry L. Miller
Kearney HS
Clay Co., MO
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